Economics of Early Childhood Education



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Common sense tells us if Nebraska is to thrive economically and socially in the new millennium, our up and coming generations of citizens must be well equipped to face the challenges and opportunities ahead.  In Nebraska and across the nation, more and more economists, business leaders, educators, law enforcement officials, and even military leaders are focusing their attention on the crucial early years of a child’s life as the time when investments in human development yield the greatest returns for our economy and society as a whole.  

This episode of The State of Education in Nebraska looks at the evidence in support of early childhood investments as an evidence-based strategy for increasing school performance, workforce quality, economic growth, community safety, and even national security.  We’ll consider how gains in the cognitive, social, and emotional skills of our youngest, most at-risk children can put them on the path to self-sufficiency and productivity, and ultimately, reduce the burden on costly public systems such as criminal justice and healthcare.  We'll see why some of America’s most respected economists stand by their assertion that early childhood investments can return up to 7–10% annually to society for each dollar invested.

“Life cycle skill formation is dynamic in nature.  Skill begets skill; motivation begets motivation.  If a child is not motivated and stimulated to learn and engage early on in life, the more likely it is that when the child becomes an adult, it will fail in social and economic life.”
     — James J. Heckman, 2000 Nobel Laureate in Economics




James Heckman: Skills Beget Skills

"The strategy that's best is to try to foster an environment . . . that promotes social, emotional
as well as cognitive skills in the child."

Heckman: Our Two Americas

"The gap between the 'haves' and the 'have-nots'
is growing. So, you're getting two Americas."

Heckman: Early Learning
Impacts Health & Crime

"Building character, building skills,
building self-control: these soft skills
can predict things like crime."

Heckman: How Families Matter

"The accident of birth plays a powerful role
in shaping the outcomes of a child in adult life."

Heckman: The Case for Investing in Disadvantaged Children

"Early childhood conditions determine,
to a degree that we did not realize before,
the later success of a person."




Panel: Moderator John Baylor, Major General Mark Musick, Sheriff Bill Brueggemann, Shawn Shanahan, Pete Festersen
Moderator John Baylor, Major General Mark Musick, Sheriff Bill Brueggemann, Shawn Shanahan, Pete Festersen

John Baylor
Program Moderator, John Baylor Test Prep CEO
James J. Heckman
Univ. of Chicago  Professor of Economics, 2000 Nobel Prize  in Economics
Pete Festersen
Omaha City Council
, Nebraska Early Childhood Business Roundtable coordinator
Shawn Shanahan
Fremont Area United Way Executive Director; Fremont Early Childhood Coalition partner
Bill Brueggemann
Cass County Sheriff; Fight Crime: Invest in Kids Nebraskan representative
Mark Musick
Retired US Air Force Major General; Mission: Readiness spokesperson


Script Consultant:
Dr. Laura Jana, Omaha Pediatrician, Early Childhood Advocate, & Author




NET Learning Services
Nebraska Children and Families Foundation
Nebraska Loves Public Schools
First Five Nebraska
America’s Promise Alliance Grad Nation
Avenue Scholars Foundation
Beyond School Bells
Buffett Early Childhood Fund

Center on Children, Families, and the Law
Coalition for Community Schools
Lincoln Community Foundation
Nebraska Department of Education
Nebraska Trucking Association
Urban League of Nebraska
United Way of Lincoln and Lancaster County

United Way Readers, Tutors, and Mentors

© 2014

American Graduate is funded in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in partnership with America's Promise Alliance, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.